Use Chat Rooms to Drive Networking

Your three-step plan to get attendees chatting

Like many facets of meeting planning, networking is going digital. For Network events, that means figuring out a way to take key aspects of traditional in-person networking and putting them online.

One way to do it: chat rooms. With many networking apps already having built-in chat functionality, the challenge in incorporating chat rooms is often in getting attendees to actually use the technology. Here are three ways to encourage chat room participation:

Promote It

Unsurprisingly, if you’re not promoting chat room use, it’s likely attendees won’t use it.

Before the meeting, give attendees a heads-up that the chat technology will be used so they can come prepared with any pertinent devices or predownloaded apps. Then, during the meeting, continually encourage guests to join the chat room at every session and speaker.

Besides telling attendees about the chat room, think about other ways your meeting could influence guests to get online. For example, set up technology stations around the room where they can easily log in and join any digital forums or conversations. At each station, include iPads or other devices, chargers for common smartphones, login information and extra chairs—it is a networking event, after all!

Get Speakers Involved

Another way to encourage guests to use chat rooms is to integrate them at every level of the meeting. That is, rather than using a chat room as an extra networking resource, make it an essential part of the event.

The best way to do this is to get the meeting’s key players involved. For example, talk with speakers about how they could use chat rooms during their session: Maybe they use polls, pose questions to the audience or host a question-and-answer forum during their talk to create an online discussion. After their sessions, invite them to be a part of the chat room so they can interact with attendees individually and further the conversation.

Gamify it

To add some fun to your meeting, use chat rooms to stir up a little friendly competition through participation-related contests. When attendees join the conversation online, offer incentives to those interacting with other guests and speakers. Or, have speakers pose questions to the audience, and the attendees with the best ideas earn a reward.

Get your sponsors involved, too. As with speakers, talk to them prior to the event to see if they can provide the winning prizes.